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NSW agent finds new staff outside the pigeon-hole

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29 Aug 2023 Agent News, Business Tips
With staff shortages continuing to impede the travel industry’s recovery, one New South Wales agent has found success by taking an unconventional approach, with a little help from Travellers Choice and the Federal Government.

Queanbeyan City Travel & Cruise owner Jenny Cooper says that during the COVID shutdown many travel professionals in her region left the industry to work for pandemic-related jobs within the public sector. However, despite that work inevitable coming to an end, few have returned to travel.

“I have no idea where the hell they went,” says Cooper, “but I realised that I was going to need to rethink the way I rebuilt my team. 

“Instead of looking for qualified staff I decided to look for local people who had reputations for good customer service skills and were looking to change the direction of their lives.”

Through word of mouth, Cooper found Carol Blazeski and Michelle Laughton Bath, two local restaurant managers and baristas who were attracted by the opportunity to learn new skills.

“They also wanted more rewarding engagement with customers and roles that allowed them to express themselves more creatively. I told them the travel industry was anything but routine, in fact it was as dynamic as the airfares they would be selling.”

Cooper applied for assistance through the Federal Government's Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Program – which was extended to cover travel consultants earlier this year – and then turned to the challenge of training her new team members.

“As always, Travellers Choice was exceptionally supportive, and it facilitated training through its customised professional development program TC Pro, which is delivered in partnership with Cornerstone Learning & Development. 

“To be honest, without that support, I don’t know how I would have found the time and energy required to make it work.”

Queanbeyan has since added two more employees, one a former Flight Centre staff member and the other a qualified agent returning to the industry after a 15-year break, both of whom are undergoing further training.

Cooper says the variety of skills and experience within the team is a major benefit and, given the opportunity, she’d not hesitate to look outside the industry for more staff members.

“Travel is a complex industry, but I think we’ve pigeon-holed ourselves when it comes to recruiting new people. We have to think outside the box – especially in regional areas – and consider what makes a great agent. 

“Look beyond experience and consider the value of people who have great customer service skills, a sense of commitment and a desire to embrace something new. You’ll find out pretty quickly if it’s going to work.”

New staff at Queanbeyan City Travel & Cruise


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